Purging Real Characters

I am not sure that Tiger Mike Davis was really missed in the business world after his bankruptcy, but I have to say that my reaction to these memos of his (via Tom Kirkendall) waiver back and forth between "what an asshole, glad I never worked for him" and "too bad political correctness has purged the world of a lot of real characters."

The memos seem to have a common theme of reminding everyone who is boss.  I run a 500-person business and have never in 10 years felt the need to remind any employee that I was boss, or to make it clear that I was somehow subject to different rules.  I could subject myself to different rules, but the downsides of doing so would be large and fairly predictable.  I try to work at least as hard as everyone who works for me.

If I was, say, LeBron James and 99% of the value created among myself and the circle of people working for me was created by me, I might see copping an attitude.  But since 99% of the value in my company is created by someone who works for me, I spend most of my time convincing my employees that I don't know everything and that I am therefore reliant on their ideas and initiative.  A long while back I wrote that I tend to hide my degrees from Ivy League schools from my employees, as these tend to intimidate people into assuming I know more than they do.  This may be a correct assumption about, say, the origins of the reformation or solution approaches to partial differential equations.  It is not correct, however, when it comes to knowledge of day to day operating issues (and their potential solution) at our facilities my employees manage for me.

Interestingly, and almost inevitably, Tiger Mike seems to have a problem with his employees not sharing information or ideas with him, as evidenced by this memo:

  • Dan

    Bob Sutton has written a book that directly addresses this management style, "The No Asshole Rule." He also blogs regularly on the topic of noxious management.

  • Fraizer Smith

    Mike was a legend. I never worked for him but I know several people who did. To put words in their mouth I would sum their comments as "The best asshole I ever worked for".

    His ethos was work hard. Get it done. "it IS MY F=ING COMPANY IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT LEAVE".

    The old school oil business was very militaristic in it's management style. Mike epitomized that.

  • anon

    It is amazing what employees will put up with during a long period of high inflation and high unemployment.